The second of our five part series with Abaddon & Solaris editor, Jonathan Oliver. Previously, we discussed the origins of the Twilight of Kerberos series.
Let’s throw in the traditional question about influences. People normally cite things like Tolkien and, more recently, David Eddings… but you’ve been talking about pulp authors so far.
H.P. Lovecraft, certainly. “Call of Cthulhu” has to be one of the most influential stories within the horror genre. Lovecraft touched on a horror that no one had really touched on before. His stories seem really grandiose and cosmic, but at their heart they’re about an utter despair. “There is no God, the universe really is this cruel!”
A friend of mine describes Lovecraft as High Church Atheism, which isn’t far off the truth. I say this as a Christian, but Lovecraft’s atheism is part of what makes him great. It doesn’t upset me – it gives him this unique take on horror.
You say "Lovecraft" and people immediately just think tentacles and big sea monsters, and that’s really not at the core of what he does.
Yes, yes, I do big tentacles and sea monsters in mine, this is true, but trying to capture that nihilistic horror of Lovecraft wasn't really at the heart of my novel, rather I wanted to have fun with Lovecraftian creatures. And now that sounds slightly pervy.
I think when people try to write Cthulhu Mythos fiction, they write about big things that eat you. But you’re saying there’s a deeper theme to Lovecraft.
To approach Lovecraft in another way, it’s like saying there is a God, and he hates you, and he just doesn’t care. There’s something about the fact that they just don’t care that’s most upsetting.
I talk about that a bit in The Call of Kerberos. There are sea monsters and tentacles, but when the god shows up, he’s pretty much unknowable. You’re not sure how he connects to Silus and Silus isn’t sure how he connects to him.
Then it’s appropriate that the first thing that the god does upon arrival is to kill his own high priest.
I like fiction when it surprises you and kills characters after you build them up.
Right from the start, Belck, the leader of the Chadassa, he’s always got his doubts. He’s supposed to lead this great revolution, kill the humans, take their lands…. He’s been brought up for that, but he has his questions. What is this for? What is this thing that our god is trying to get us to do?
That’s very different from your pulpy, Robert E. Howard tradition. His high priests never have doubts.
In The Call of Kerberos, the thing that becomes the avatar of the Great Ocean isn’t even the high priest.
What is going to happen next?
The next book will go way more into Kerberos itself, this mysterious god-thing. Because now we’ve suggested that this god Kerberos has created things in the past, so in the next novel I want to go right, right, right back to Twilight’s earliest days. There wasn’t any sea, and there wasn’t this peninsula – there was just this vast land… and it’s going to be about people trying to escape from Kerberos itself. If I say any more it spoils the surprise.
Stick around - in the next segment, we get more into the lingering & pernicious influence of the great pulp writers. The Call of Kerberos is available through Amazon and your local bookshop.